Summer’s almost over, if I hear one more back-to-school ad on the radio I might actually scream (I think it’s forever ingrained in my being to hate them, even though I’m a year out of school). For many Washingtonians this means one last jaunt over the Bay Bridge to your beach destination of choice (ten irrelevant points to you if it’s Dewey!). Here’s why packing a few bottles of sunscreen before you head out should be on top of your list.
Let’s face it, we’re all bad about sunscreen. It smells bad, is inconvenient to remember to put on and even worse? It’s not super cheap. Sunburns suck but for sunscreen to be at its maximum effectiveness you have to reapply every two hours. EVERY TWO HOURS! Who has time for that?
I do, and you should too. Here’s why.
A few weeks after my 22nd birthday I was diagnosed with melanoma. I had visited the dermatologist for a routine checkup (my parents are adamant about us visiting doctors, and it’s part of my yearly dentist/ internist/dermo rotation) and a routine biopsy had come back as malignant. I know what you’re thinking, okay so how many times did you go to a tanning bed? None. I didn’t use tanning beds. I can barely even remember getting a really bad burn. I used sunscreen, I wasn’t super adamant about re-application but I also wasn’t the type of person tanning on the beach for hours every day. As a surfer I prefer to be in the water, and I figured my wetsuit/ rash guard was fairly decent sun protection.
I endured a few extremely scary weeks where we didn’t know what stage it was at before I got the good news, it was Stage 1. I had gotten lucky. Extremely lucky. To this day however I have to cover up all the time. I rarely leave the house without a huge hat, I shop at REI more than anyone my age should. Fortunately, REI has AWESOME clothing with sun protection in it (click here for some of my faves, if it has UPF in it, I’m a fan).
I always look like I’m going for a hike somewhere and I’m so pale I’m practically translucent. But melanoma isn’t something you mess with, and once you get it, you’re way more likely to get it again. So I live by the phrase “90 degrees? Still need the long sleeves,” and yes I made it up.
Here’s the scary news, melanoma is on the rise in young adults. According to skincancer.org and the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s the MOST COMMON form of cancer in young adults. It gets scarier. One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes. It’s deadly, it moves quickly and needs to be caught early.
Before you start panicking too much there’s good news too. It’s fairly preventable, sunscreen does an amazing job of protecting your skin from getting all types of skin cancer and with yearly dermatologist check ups it’s fairly easy to catch before it gets too bad.
Make a dermatologist appointment, bring some sunscreen with you to the beach (I highly recommend Neutrogena Ultra Sheer (SPF 30 or higher) and so does my doctor), buy some clothing with UPF in it from REI (I live in these hoodies, available for women and here’s a similar one for men) and we’ll all be okay.
And don’t use a tanning bed. Ever. A “healthy glow” is not worth it.